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What ever happened to the Buffalo Blue Pike?

Submitted by Charles M:

Few people today know that there was a commercial fishery here in Buffalo. Thousands of pounds of Blue Pike were caught throughout Lake Erie and it was the favorite fish in restaurants. We didn’t always eat fish shipped in from elsewhere. There was plenty of sea food here locally. Your answer is below. There is still hope a genetically true Blue Pike will turn up since it was a deep water fish or that the miracle of genetic manipulation could put it in the category of the wooly mammoth as a candidate for being brought back from extinction.

In the meantime even if we could, Lake Erie is still too hypoxic to return commercial fishing to the lake. The problem was improving up until 1990 with the removal of phosphorous and other contaminants but recent studies show the increased use of fertilizers, agricultural waste and urban/suburban waste have not just replaced the old industrial sources of pollution but exceeded enough to keep much of the lake hypoxic all year and all of the lake hypoxic periodically. There is really no place for a large fish species to live. Although lake sturgeon are doing quite well living off zebra mussels in the shallow western shores of Lake Erie. The people today will never know the bounty that came out of the Great Lakes as little as 50 years ago.

From the Ohio Sea Grant(2007):

“Yes, the blue walleye subspecies was found only in Lake Erie, and to a large degree they maintained relative isolation from the yellow walleye. They stayed in the Central Basin after spawning, often using deep water which at that time remained oxygenated. Fish species and subspecies that share the same basin will always come into contact with each other, but the blue walleye tended to school together. For spawning, they headed to the Western Basin reefs, just as do many Central Basin-dwelling yellow walleye and whitefish.

As the blue walleye diminished in number from overharvesting and very poor water quality, it became more difficult to find mates of the same species. Blues began hybridizing with yellows, producing a color phase that was called “gray pike,” or “mules.” For a short time, gray pike outnumbered blue pike in commercial catches. Then the grays disappeared from further cross breeding. The remaining blue pike traits were absorbed into the now dominant yellow walleye population.”

In a manner of speaking, the blue pike weren’t wiped out. After their numbers were sufficiently depressed, they were “soaked up.”


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  • Rand503

    Congratulations, people of the past!  You wiped out an entire industry and eliminiated an entire species due to your inability to control the harvest and protect the environment.
    I wonder what the people of the future will condemn US for?  We certainly haven’t learned any lessons.  I guess it’s more important to have a perfect suburban lawn than to have a thriving lake.

  • Spock1

    I’m noticing some common threads between this article, the fork and knives story, and the one about the regatta.  The author’s written “voice” is very similar between the three, as is that of the commenter(s) offering the most enthusiastic praise of each article in each respective comment section.

  • buffalorr

    Rand503–“I wonder what the people of the future will condemn US for?”. Speaking for myself on a Sunday night feeling tired but happy after a day around town, my basic cerebral level is causing me to think it might be allowing the demise of Freddy’s doughnuts.

  • Spock1

    AndoreaPuis Does that mean I get two pin-the-tail-on-the-Christie-Lou prizes – one for the article and one for Andorea?

  • MikeJarosz

    In the 50s, my father regularly went fishing on the lake and would bring back blue pike. My mother would make a fish fry out of it. Cheaper than going to a gin mill, even the one my uncle owned on Abbott Road.
    I’m hoping they might be brought back through a genetic engineering program. There was the case of the guy in Ohio who had what he thought was a blue in the kitchen freezer for 30 years. Turned out it was a hybrid and couldn’t be used.

  • Ablejack

    This story gave me fond memories. My father would talk about the Blue Pike when I was a lad.  He would fish them with his father. And now they’re gone. But it doesn’t help to blame the caretaking  past generations. Today we are much worse stewards. Not as much by the direct harvest of a species . Instead we have been destroying or neglecting their habitat, a much bigger problem.  We have made some strides in Lake Erie but our responsibility is not done.